Commissioner Bruce Cohen has ordered the B.C. Salmon Farmers' Association to submit data on salmon health and mortality dating back as far as the year 2000, and covering an additional 99 fish farms.
The decision was in the form of a 22-page Ruling Re: Rule 19 Application for Production of Aquaculture Health Records. It stemmed from an "Initial Request," made last July by the Aquaculture Coalition and the Conservation Coalition, asking for documents from the province, the federal government, and the British Columbia Salmon Farmers' Association. As Cohen put it:
The Initial Request sought documents relating to fish health, pathogens and diseases, as well as stocking data in farmed salmon. The applicants also requested fish health data for wild salmon. The geographic and temporal scope of the Initial Request was for fish farms and "wild salmon on the Fraser River migration route (including both sides of Vancouver Island and north of Vancouver Island through Klemtu) dating from 1980 to the present."
The BCSFA wrote to commission counsel on July 30, 2010, advising that it found the Initial Request "overreaching in its scope, both in terms of the kinds of documents requested and the period of time which the request covers."
Much of the ruling is a detailed summary of the arguments made by both sides. In his conclusion, Commissioner Cohen wrote:
The evidence ... persuades me that there is a likelihood that the respondents possess documents in a useable format from 2000 to present which will assist me in making findings regarding the impact, if any, of the salmon farms on Fraser River sockeye salmon, and which can be obtained without impacting disproportionately on the participants or the conduct of the commission. However, I am not persuaded that I should order the production of documents sought by the applicants prior to 2000.
... In the result, I find that the respondents should produce those documents sought in this application, which are in their possession and control, for the period of January 1, 2000 to September 1, 2010 ... Further, said documents shall be produced by the respondents by January 21, 2011.
I wish to make it clear that this ruling is not to be construed in any manner as a finding on whether aquaculture is a cause for the decline of Fraser River sockeye salmon.
Stan Proboszcz of Watershed Watch, speaking to The Tyee, said he was pleased that Cohen had agreed with his argument for extending the spatial extent of documents from 21 fish farms to 120.
He added that when the documents are submitted, they will go into a database accessible to all participants in the commission.
The ruling and many other documents are available on the Cohen Commission website.
Crawford Kilian is a contributing editor of The Tyee.